“I named my daughter Radiyé, which means ‘I accept’ in Arabic, because I delivered the baby easily only a few hours after having drunk the water from the new pump. With this first name given to my daughter, I wanted to illustrate my enthusiasm and gratitude, because we will be able to start another life thanks to the water pump,” says Khadidja who stretches out her arms to get her newborn out of her cradle.
At 31, although she might look older, perhaps because of the vicissitudes of her life, Khadidja is filled with joy, especially since the new water pump is only 300 metres from her house. Handing me her daughter, a beautiful 13-day-old baby, she tells me stories about when she had to walk long distances to get water.
“Before, I was obliged to walk at least five kilometres to get water from the nearest wadi even when I was pregnant and about to deliver. It could take me more than two hours for the round trip.” Something that was not easy for this mother of seven children aged two to 16. She would lock the smallest ones at home before leaving for her daily chore. “It would break my heart every time I locked them up in the house alone, but I had no choice,” she explains, a little saddened.
For six years Khadidja has lived in Haya Zouhour, a village in the periphery of Guéreda, which has received UNICEF funding for a drinking water tower. When she arrived, things were not easy for her. “At the beginning, I would share with my two children, aged 10 and 12, the chore of fetching water from the wadis,” she says. But then, for almost four years, Khadija bore the heavy daily burden alone, in addition to other household chores, because she decided to let her school-age children continue their studies.
Khadidja’s eldest son, who is 16 years old now, still remembers the journeys to a water pump six kilometres from his village. “Back then, we would go to fetch water in the wadi with my sister Hawa. We’d spend one hour to go and one hour to come back, and we had to queue at least two hours to be able to get only 60 litres sometimes,” he says.
For almost two weeks now, all these difficulties have become just bad memories for Khadidja’s family and for most of the families in Haya Zouhour.
For Koubra, Khadidja’s neighbor, however, the memories are particularly bitter—her child died from a water-related disease. After a long sigh, her head lowered she says, “We did not know that the water of wadis was contaminated and contained bacteria, and this despite its bad clay taste and its dark color. I only understood this when I saw my 11-month daughter dead in my arms following acute diarrhea.”
Trying to be supportive, Khadidja passes her hand over Koubra’s right palm and says, “A drop of water is enough to create a world they say, and ours has just been recreated thanks to this new water pump.”
In rural Chad, almost 60 percent of the population does not have safe drinking water, with more than 38 percent of the rural population at risk of diseases due to unsafe water. The water tower in Haya Zouhour, with its hybrid thermal and solar-immersed pump installed by UNICEF, will serve nearly 530 households of eight within a radius of five kilometres, preventing close to 4,000 people from falling sick due to waterborne diseases. This facility will also enable over 300 school-aged children to focus on their education because now, and in the future, they won’t have to travel long distances to fetch water.
Diguera Azoura is the Social Media Officer at UNICEF Chad Country Office